Friday, December 11, 2020

Short Story Recommended Reading List for 2020

Welcome, citizens of the internet, to my big old Short Story Recommended Reading list! Despite all the time we've spent staring at our devices, many of us are behind on our reading. Magazines piled up, and tabs overflowed until browsers crashed. What was good in short fiction this year?

I'll tell you what was good. I'm making a list, and I'm checking it twice. The following list is what I'd strongly recommend checking out from the twenty-or-so publications I've perused in 2020. The list encompasses many authors from many countries and walks of life, and just as many different kinds of stories.

Please, tell me what you loved in the comments.

Monday, November 30, 2020

2020 Awards Eligibility Post

This year is actually almost over! Sure, some part of you says it's still March, but that part is sleep deprived and needs a hug. 

And because 2020 year is almost over, awards nominations are starting to open up. That leaves us writers with the nervous task of collecting our awards-eligible material.

Below, I humbly present the stories and articles I've written this year. This has been the most fruitful year of my career, with more publications and fan outreach than ever. I'm profoundly grateful to everyone who has enjoyed my weirdo stories. "Open House on Haunted Hill," for instance, is the single most popular thing I've ever written, despite being exactly the sort of thing so many people told me I couldn't and shouldn't write. Thank you all who proved those voices wrong.

Thank you to anyone who has space on their ballots and end-of-year-lists for any of my work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"8-Bit Free Will" is live at PodCastle!

I've got a Thanksgiving present for you, everybody! Today PodCastle published a brand new story of mine: 8-Bit Free Will.

This is a story about monsters, and companions, and monster companions. Hollow Knight and HealBlob are two generic monsters in a dungeon in a videogame, designed to be easily killed off by the player. They were designed to work together to be a tiny challenge. They weren't designed to win, but they've killed the player by accident and started leveling up themselves. Suddenly they're on the run from greater monsters in their world, and from other players who want to take them down. The two buddy monsters don't know they are yet, but once they find free will out there in the world, they'll define themselves. Each just wants to help save the other. It's a journey that defines why we love games: because we share them with someone else.

The story has a lovely intro by host Matt Dovey, and a generous and moving outro by narrator Wilson Fowlie.

You can read or listen to the entire story for free just by clicking this link.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Personal Canons: Dragon Ball

There have been numerous conversations about Science Fiction and Fantasy canon this year. Can works age out of the canon? Is the gatekeeping essential to canons necessarily racist and xenophobic? Is a single objective canon possible? How do canons help us?

Amid this, Sarah Gailey has run a great series of essays by various critics and authors on what works they feel belong in a greater canon. I've enjoyed reading them, and I'm pleased today to see my entry published.

I'd like to talk to you about Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball. Both the manga and anime were massive breakout hits for Japanese SFF writers abroad, including in the US where I live. The anarchic weirdness of that series was as enchanting and formative for me as any work of Tolkien.

Please come join me for the conversation. You can read my piece for free by clicking right here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

NASFiC 2020 Schedule - This Weekend!

This weekend is the North American Science Fiction Convention! Thanks to the pandemic, they've moved exclusively to the internet, doing programming over Zoom and Discord. The event will be free to attend, so even folks on other continents can watch and chat about everything Science Fiction.

I'll be doing a few pieces of programming for them. All of mine will be over Zoom. Hope to see you there! 


Friday at 1:00-1:30 PM EST

Reading: John Wiswell

Literally me reading stories to you! I have a poll open on Twitter to vote for what I read. You can vote here.

Friday at 9:00-10:00 PM EST

Lessons Not Learned: The Future of Dystopian & Utopian Stories 

Panelists: Jason Sanford (Moderator), Ace Ratcliff, Amanda Makepeace, John Medaille, John Wiswell, Raven Oak

The panel discusses: Where does the genre go now that so much of the dystopian warnings sci-fi warned us about were ignored? What does a dystopian world look like in a post-COVID, post-Trump, melting-polar caps world? Can we ever move back to utopianism? Should we do away with utopian and dystopian scenarios altogether?


Saturday at 8:00-9:00 PM EST

Weathering the Storm: Creating in Times of Trouble at 8 PM EST on Saturday

Panelists: Brandon Wilson (moderator), Christine Taylor-Butler, Elsa Sjunneson, John Wiswell, Mari Ness

 A mixed panel of writers and artists discuss the challenges of making art and stories during a pandemic, as well as strategies for managing health and being active creators.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is live at Diabolical Plots!

Today I'm proud to present "Open House on Haunted Hill," one of my favorite stories I've ever written. It follows the loneliest haunted house in the world, which is just desperate for someone to live in it. It's just gone live at Diabolical Plots.

I can't overstate the outpouring this story has gotten so far. This is the most acclaim and attention any story of mine has received at launch. The kind words from readers, fellow authors, editors, and agents has affirmed all the work I put into this little house.

This story began as a joke at World Fantasy in 2018. I was trying to explain to other writers that I love Horror, and read and watch it all the time, but I don't write much of it. If I wrote a haunted house story, it'd be about one that wanted to help its occupants live comfortably. This got a lot of laughs, but also a lot of requests for me to please actually write that.

Well folks? I did.

Along the way, I was blessed by some keen beta readers and cheer readers. A special thanks goes out to all of them: Natalia Theodoridou, Michelle Ann Fleming, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Nat Sylva, Cass Williams, Ariel Harris, and Leigh Wallace. The editor at Diabolical Plots magazine, David Steffen, also helped me work some kinks out of the ending. To edit is divine, right?

You can read "Open House on Haunted Hill" for free by clicking this link.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Digital Balticon Schedule for This Weekend!

This weekend is Balticon, a convention put on by the Maryland Regional Science Fiction & Fantasy Society. We can't gather in place thanks to the pandemic, but we can meet online. Balticon will be free to everyone who signs up on their website. After signing up, you can drop into whatever panels, talks, and readings you like from their entire offering.

The upside of the digital convention is that now anybody from around the world can see the programming and ask questions. Given how late some programming goes, it'll welcome folks from distant time zones. And it's free to everyone.

I'll be doing a few items with them. This is my first digital convention and I'm quite excited for how it will go.

Does anything on my schedule grab your interest?

So What is Horror?
Friday May 22, 10:00 PM US EST
Chad Eric Smith (Moderator), L. Marie Wood, Lee Murray, Alan Smale, John Wiswell
What is it that makes horror a distinct genre, and what experience are audiences seeking to get out of it? How has our definition of what constitutes "horror" changed over time? How do ideas and concepts break out from horror into other genres, such as paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and what makes horror's use of them different?

How Contemporary Fears Shape Apocalyptic Fiction
Sunday May 24, 1:00 PM US EST
D.H. Aire (Moderator), Kelly E. Dwyer, John Wiswell, Hildy Silverman
From nuclear war to disease to computers run amok, horror and apocalyptic fiction hold a mirror up to society's fears and show us just how badly things can go wrong. How have the terrors of different eras shaped stories of the end times, and how do different ways of portraying them affect their respective audiences?

Cultures Are Not Monoliths
Sunday May 24, 5:00 PM US EST
Don Sakers (Moderator), Stephanie Burke, Melissa Scott, Vivian Shaw, John Wiswell
In science fiction and fantasy, members of cultures are often presented with the same traits, regardless of regional and class distinctions. This can be a result of poor worldbuilding, pacing issues, limited space, or authorial neglect. How can creators add nuance and variety to their imagined societies, and what are good ways to portray this to their audience?

Reading: Ken Schrader and John Wiswell
Monday May 25, 1:00 PM US EST
Two writers share an hour reading from their short stories.

Monday, April 13, 2020

"Gender and Other Faulty Software" is live at Fireside Magazine

I'm happy to present "Gender and Other Faulty Software," a new short story live at Fireside Magazine!

It's the story of a crew that reclaims abandoned spaceships by installing a new operating system in them. But the newest spaceship finds some bugs in the OS's code - and particularly, has questions to ask about why it needs a gender. This story is already getting lovely responses around Twitter.

I have to thank Jordan Kurella and Merc Fenn Wolfmoor for beta reading this story. They did a wonderful job pointing me in the right direction to polish it.

This is my fourth story at Fireside. I'm overjoyed to keep bringing fun and unusual pieces to their pages. You can read the story for free by clicking this link.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Kaiju Story in Nature Magazine?

Call this one a career goal! I've got a brand new story for you about giant monsters published by Nature.

The Nature Futures program, which runs Science Fiction stories in the otherwise Non-Fiction Science publication, does amazing work. This is my second story with them, and I'm tremendously proud of it. It is both a kaiju story and a rare piece of Hard SciFi from me. I researched radiation technology and animal behavior extensively for how someone might try to treat these things if they existed.

The result is "Tucking In the Nuclear Egg," a story about how to care for kaiju eggs that otherwise will irradiate your continent. You can read it for free by clicking here.

The reception has been wonderfully warm so far. Please let me know what you think!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Two Sales to Announce!

I have two good pieces of news to share this week. I've just signed a pair of contracts for two exciting projects.

First up: I've sold a new story to Nature Futures. This one is "Tucking In the Nuclear Egg," a story about giant monsters with a little more science than I usually apply. It's about the logistics of shielding and caring for a kaiju egg that's constantly putting off multiple Chernobyls worth of radiation. It's terrifying and tender - and yes, this does mean I sold a kaiju story to Nature! This feels like a life goal.

This is my second sale to Nature, following "The Tentacle and You" in 2019. There may be a little more news about that tentacle story coming soon.

up: I can announce my first essay of the year! Uncanny Magazine has accepted "The Assassination of Professor X," which is a deep dive into the history of the character, how he's been rewritten in the last two decades to be more despicable and less idealistic, and how his famous disability has been erased in parallel. Professor X is a rare character as a disabled mentor, and I don't take his destruction lightly. I've been stewing on this for years, and I look forward to sharing it with you all in the coming months.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Bathrooom Monologues Movie Awards, 2019 Edition

It's almost February 2020, so of course we're all talking about the best movies of 2019. For many that includes movies that only came to the U.S. for the first time in 2019. Naturally I'll disagree with some of the Oscar winners. More naturally, I don't understand what some of the categories mean. But nothing shall dissuade me from telling a democratic body of people who devote swaths of their lives to film that their mass conclusions were wrong. So here we go!

The Robbed Award
Going to the movie that got no play last year
and is just as good as whatever won Best Picture

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

My Schedule for ConFusion 2020

Starting January 17th, I'll be at ConFusion in Detroit! It's a convention for Fantasy and Science Fiction fans to meet writers they like and attend talks on many topics. This will be my second year in attendance, and I hope it will be slightly less blizzardy. This year I'll be doing three panels, and then wrapping up with reading a brand new, unpublished story on Sunday.

I hope to see you there!

Toothless?: Making Allies of Villains and Monsters
 Day: Saturday
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Room: Interlochen
"Enemies to Friends" and the "Heel-Face Turn" are two of the most beloved and most common tropes in genre lit, particularly in fan writing. Shuffling characters into new teams between novels or seasons also lets us see characters, often villains or anti-heroes, in a new light. In this panel, we'll discuss the appeal of seeing what was once horrific or threatening become (relatively) "safe," the role of "redemption" (if any) in that process, and, of course, both favorite and "failed" Heel-Face turns.
Panelists: Tracy Townsend (M), John Wiswell, Brandon Crilly, Marie Bilodeau

Masculinity and Trauma Recovery in Genre Fiction
 Day: Saturday
Time: 02:00 p.m.
Room: Isle Royale
Science Fiction and Fantasy are full of tough manly heroes (and anti-heroes) with trauma in their backgrounds, from murdered families to witnessed war crimes. More often than not, these traumatic backstories serve as a justification for sarcasm, alcohol, and violence. In a world where men are significantly less likely to get professional help to heal from their trauma, how can science fiction and fantasy help to create positive examples of heroes who face their demons constructively?
Panelists: Brandon O'Brien (M), Adam R. Shannon, dave ring, John Wiswell, R.B. Lemberg

Non-Monarchic Governments in SF&F
 Day: Saturday
Time: 05:00 p.m.
Room: Manitou
Historical fantasy loves its kings and queens almost as much as space opera loves its emperors, but do we need them? What are some interesting (or terrible) alternative methods of government, and how do they show up in our favourite genre stories? From Star Wars’ Senate to Le Guin's Ekumen, what do we learn when we put aside crowns and dig a little deeper?
Panelists: Tracy Townsend (M), John Wiswell, Ehud Maimon, Kristine Smith

Reading: Marissa Lingen, Tim Boerger, John Wiswell
 Day: Sunday
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Room: Saugatuck
Panelists: Marissa Lingen, Tim Boerger, John Wiswell
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